By Nicole Itkin

The Butter and Egg Man is a fabulous play by the one and only George S. Kaufman. It’s a tight script that flows easily from scene to scene, a 1925 play that resonates in 2024: it shows the deals, cajoling, and (slight) manipulation behind the scenes of a show. It’s particularly resonant when it makes jokes at the expense of the theater business (“it’s profitable, right?” Peter Jones, played by Andrew Kaplan, asks for reassurance after investing $20,000 into a show).

I have a few qualms with the ensemble cast; at times, they were fabulous and at other times, they didn’t click, particularly in the scenes in the hotel. The night after the opening of the show, there was a certain lightness, an energy, an enthusiasm that I wish the cast had been reaching for, even as the events of the night, the flop of the show held them back from ever getting there. I wish there had been a little more here, that they had fostered the energy I was looking for. Still, what they did present was admirable.

This is true especially because, before the show started, there was an announcement that two actors had been replaced—Kaplan, in the leading role, was one of the actors who stepped in. The announcer asked us to please be patient if the replacements looked at scripts during the show. Indeed, in the second act, Kaplan was almost entirely reliant on the script in his hand—but he pulled it off impressively. I’ve seen shows where it feels like the cast has been reading from scripts when they’re not; here, he was reading and it, by and large, didn’t feel like it and it didn’t take away from his performance. In fact, it made me feel closer to the show, like I’d been let in to the rehearsal process.

The set was fairly threadbare, the space wasn’t exactly a grand theater. I do wish there had been a little more effort made with the hotel room—though the horse painting was a nice touch). But it did the job. I felt the space transform into each room as needed, from office to hotel. The pain, hope, and desperation was palpable in each room, as ownership of the show switched around again and again again, from producer to producer.

And the ending! A triumphant finish. Very rarely have I truly been so completely on the edge of my seat. A grand finale to be sure!

Out of the Box Theatre Company’s choice to take on the Butter and Egg Man was a great reach into the past. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it brought back to life. A great play! And a company with the great mission of casting older actors and bringing in older audiences, a great initiative and a welcome presence in the community.

 

 

Out of the Box Theatre Company (OotB) concludes its 2023-24 season with an Actors’ Equity Association–approved showcase production of the hilarious 1925 comedy The Butter and Egg Man by George S. Kaufman, June 18, 20–23, 2024. The live, in-person performances will take place at the Bernie Wohl Center, 647 Columbus Avenue (between 91st and 92nd Streets), New York, N.Y. Tickets are $30 and $25 (seniors and students) and can be purchased at http://ShowTix4U.com/events/OutOfTheBoxTheatre.

The mission of Out of the Box Theatre Company, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, is to feature working professionals at their peak and in their prime: seasoned actors, directors and designers primarily past 50 years of age, and to present new interpretations of period plays and contemporary classics: works written in the last century and earlier. Out of the Box also distributes free tickets to senior citizen organizations.

This production uses the original 1925 public domain version of the script.